Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors

Friday, November 11, 2016 - 3:30pm

What is Sue and Settle?

"Sue and Settle" refers to when a federal agency agrees to a settlement agreement, in a lawsuit from special interest groups, to create priorities and rules outside of the normal rulemaking process.  The agency intentionally relinquishes statutory discretion by committing to timelines and priorities that often realign agency duties.  These settlement agreements are negotiated behind closed doors with no participation from the public or affected parties.

As an example, between 2009 and 2012, EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest advocacy groups.  These cases resulted in settlement agreements and EPA publishing more than 100 new regulations - including the recent Clean Power Plan.

Recent Notices of Intent to Sue on EPA's Website

10/14/2016 CAA, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Air Alliance Houston, and Environment Texas
For Unreasonable Delay and Failure to Perform a Non-­Discretionary Duty to Revise and Re-Issue or Deny Three Title V Permits Issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (Shell Deer Park Chemical Plant, Shell Deer Park Refinery, and SWEPCO's I-1. W. Pirkey Power Plant).
10/13/2016 CAA, Sierra Club
Concerning Clean Air Act deadlines related to Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators and other categories of Solid Waste Incinerators.
10/12/2016 CAA, Sierra Club
For failure to grant or deny a petition seeking an objection by EPA to the Title V Operating Permit renewal for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Gallatin Fossil Plant.
9/23/2016 ESA, Northwest Environmental Advocates
Notice of intent to allege violations Endangered Species Act consultation provisions for administration of nonpoint source grant funds
For a full list of EPA's Notices of Intent to Sue, visit

What is New in Sue and Settle?

    October 2016

    See all -- Sue and Settle News Archive

    What are the Economic Implications of our Findings?

    Interactive List of All Sue & Settle Cases

    Also see this alternate table, which lists court cases resolved by agency action in response to legal challenges.

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